Operation Helping Hand (Op HH) was formed in the spring of 2004 to provide assistance and support for the families of the active duty wounded and injured.




Due to the generous contributions of individuals, corporations and associations to Op HH, over $200,000 has been provided to the wounded/injured military and their families. In addition, they received more than $500,000 in in-kind support, such as gasoline gift cards, rental cars, and amusement park, movie and dinner tickets. The administrative costs for Op HH total approximately 3.5 percent of funds contributed. All of the work is done by volunteers with no compensation whatsoever.


Welcome Kits

Op HH presents Welcome Kits containing such items as gift certificates, phone cards, Op HH hat and shirt, toiletry items, cell phone cards, dinner gift cards, gas gift cards and many other items needed for their stay while their loved one is being treated. Welcome Kits are presented to the wounded/injured and their families upon arrival at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and receive gift bags and flowers at our monthly dinners.


The Late Captain Robert (Bob) J. Silah, U.S. Navy (Ret),

was no stranger when it came to serving our military families and the community in which he lived. He served as Chairman of Operation Helping Hand (Op HH)–a special initiative of the Tampa Chapter of Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)–dedicated to providing support for U.S. military active duty personnel wounded/injured abroad and being cared for at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa, and their visiting families. Since its inception, Op HH has assisted more than 900 wounded/injured patients and a countless number of family members.

Born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Bob attended high school and graduated from St. Mary Springs Academy before going to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he received a B.S. Degree in Industrial Management. Shortly after graduation, he joined the United States Navy, and thus began a career lasting 27 years that included: 15 years of service on U.S. Navy ships; 2 tours in Vietnam; 2 tours in the Pentagon; and his last assignment at Central Command in Tampa. During this time, Bob earned his MBA from the Naval War College. In addition, Bob had received the following awards/recognitions:

  • “Newman’s Own” – Selected first out of 177 in national competition;
  • The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce – Special Humanitarian Award;
  • The United Way – Volunteer of the Year Award;
  • The Mayor’s Alliance – Community Service Award;
  • Governor’s Point of Light Award;
  • President’s Call to Service Award (from President George W. Bush);
  • Tampa Bay Lightning “Community Hero” Award;
  • Admiral Collins Leadership Award (first recipient);
  • ASAE National Award;
  • Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame selection (1 of 6 out of 155 applicants)
  • The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce – Bob Cutler Volunteer Award

Bob also founded and was President of SKY Sportswear, Inc. In 2012, he was elected to the MOAA National Board of Directors, which oversees the 400,000 national MOAA members.

Bob was married to wife Kathryn (Kathy) and had two sons, Mike and Jason. His legacy lives on through his family, through the work of Operation Helping Hand, and in his community.

Welcome Kits

About Our Chairman

LTC Jim Griffin, USA, (Ret)

 Born in Abilene, Kansas, Jim Griffin, Chairman of Operation Helping Hand, was raised all around the world as the son of a military family. He earned a BS degree in Biology and was commissioned in the US Army in 1965 through ROTC at Clemson University. He has served in command and staff positions with the 1ST, 3RD, and 4TH Armored Divisions in Europe, as well as serving with the 1ST CAV Division and the 1ST Aviation Brigade in Vietnam.

 Jim earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and retired from the military in 1987. His education includes:  Chemical Officer Basic Course; the Armored Officer Basic and Advanced Courses; US Command and General Staff College; and a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

In addition, Jim also served as Author/Instructor at the US Command and General Staff College. He completed his military career as Professor of Military Science at Clemson University. In 2010, he was elected as President of the Tampa Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America [MOAA] where he served a six-year term and currently serves on the MOAA Board of Directors as Immediate Past President. He began his tenure as Chairman of Operation Helping Hand in September of 2016. He is married to wife, Kaki, and they have one daughter, Ashley, and three grandsons–Griffin, Wils, and Cooper.


  • Captain Robert Silah, USN (Ret), Chairman
  • Captain Donald Dvornik, USN (Ret), Public Relations
  • Lieutenant Colonel Jim Griffin, USA (Ret), Grants
  • CWO Thomas South, USA (Ret) Special Projects
  • CWO Bill Farrow, USA (Ret)
  • Mr. Bob Markee


  • Mr. Dave Andreychek, Tampa Bay Lightning 2004 Stanley Cup Champion
  • Major General Earnest Bedke, USAF (Ret)
  • Honorable Gus Bilirakis, Member, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Mr. Bob Buckhorn, Mayor, City of Tampa
  • Lieutenant Colonel Greg Celestan, USA (Ret), Chairman & CEO, Celestar Corp.
  • Mr. Dick Crippen, Senior Advisor, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Major General Gene Deegan, USMC (Ret)
  • Monsignor Laurance Higgins, Pastor Emeritus, St. Lawrence Parish
  • Mr. Shawn Hughes, CEO, Certipath Incorporated
  • Ms. Pam Iorio, Former Mayor, City of Tampa
  • Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire, USN (Ret)
  • Rear Admiral William Merlin, USCG (Ret)
  • General Lloyd “Fig” Newton, USAF (Ret)
  • Mr. Mark Ober, Florida State Attorney, 13th Judical Circuit
  • Admiral Eric Olson, USN (Ret)
  • Colonel Mike Prendergast, USA (Ret), Executive Director, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Ms. Gayle Sierens, News Anchor, WFLA TV Channel 8 Tampa
  • Lieutenant General Martin Steele, USMC (Ret), Executive Director, Military Partnerships-University of South Florida
  • Master Gunnery Sergeant Sally Strickland, USMC (Ret)

Lieutenant Colonel James Griffin, USA (Ret) – Chairman
Captain Donald Dvornik, USN (Ret)
Bob Markee
Dick Nielsen
Colonel William Schneider, USA (Ret)
Colonel Carol Zieres, USA (Ret)
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Sawallesh, USA (Ret)
Chief Warrant Officer Bill Farrow, USA (Ret)
Chief Warrant Officer Tom South, USA (Ret)

Dave Andreychuk, Tampa Bay Lightning
Honorable Gus Bilirakis, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Greg Celestan, LTC, USA (Ret), CEO, Celestar Corp.
Dick Crippen, Senior Advisor, Tampa Bay Rays
Shawn Hughes, CEO, Certipath Corp.
Rear Admiral Bill Merlin, USCG (Ret)
Gayle Sierens, Former News Anchor, WFLA TV
BG Arne Skjaerpe, Norway (Ret), Prox Dynamics Corp.
LTG Martin Steele, USMC (Ret)
Raymond G. Duquette, President and GM, CAE USA
Joe Tragakis, VP, ARMA Global Corporation
Karol Chordas, Booz Allen Hamilton
Major General James Jones, USAF (Ret), Tampa Chapter Board Member, MOAA


Operation Helping Hand of Tampa would not be possible without the support or the Military Officers Association of America. Our members are Active Duty, Guard/Reserve, Retired, and Former Officers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, NOAA, and Public Health Service.